By Jason Breitkopf, Chyten Faculty Operations Manager
It’s long been accepted conventional wisdom that students’ junior year of high school is the most stressful. Many adults can recount their own tales of junior year stress: maintaining a high grade point average, preparing for college-entrance exams, thinking about college, and perhaps participating in a sport or working a part-time job. And while high school is full of new experiences, many of which can cause students stress, junior year has a reputation as the most stressful of the four years of high school.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of high school graduates attending college or university has increased by almost 14 points over the last 30 years. This has had the practical result of increasing the competition for college admission. The most prestigious colleges and universities in the nation currently only accept between 5 and 8 percent of applicants, down from almost 20 percent three decades ago.
As the number of applicants continues to increase each year, competition for a seat at the table at a student’s college or university of choice has translated into an equivalent increase in stress for America’s high school students. And the lion’s share of this stress falls on students during their junior year.
In their junior year, many students take on additional roles in the educational, extracurricular, and financial aspects of their lives. This is also the year that schools open up challenging courses in Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB), and these courses can be essential for improving a student’s résumé in preparation for the college admissions process. It’s often during junior year that students rise to varsity teams in sports or leads and solos in the performing arts. Students are also expected to take on leadership positions within clubs and other extracurricular organizations at their schools. Additionally, the trend of colleges and universities requiring an increasing number of hours spent volunteering has only begun to subside. Juniors must navigate this maze of activities and maintain a high grade point average in classes that are more challenging and advanced than ever before.
The complexity of high school subjects has also increased more than most parents may realize. One example is in math. 30 years ago, most high school students took Algebra 1 as freshmen, and only a handful of students completed pre-Calculus or beyond. In contrast, the majority of students in the country who will be graduating over the next few years completed Algebra 1 in either 7th or 8th grade, and many of them will finish high school having taken Calculus, AP Calculus, and/or AP Statistics. Add in the traditional stresses of earning a driver’s license or working a part-time job, and it’s no wonder juniors feel more stressed than ever before.
Luckily, there are resources available to students and their parents to help on this journey through junior year stresses and college applications. While parents are often a student’s first resource, with the changes in the standardized testing landscape, the advent of online applications, and greater opportunities available to students, parents may feel overwhelmed by options that weren’t available to them when they were students. High school college counselors have had greater responsibilities laid at their feet as well, allowing them less time to do the jobs they do so well. Resources such as private college counselors, tutoring and test prep, and online assistance can be invaluable to students and parents in an era of college admissions that’s more hectic than ever. The human touch that another helping hand can provide may be just the thing to reduce the stress of junior year.
Chyten’s College Endeavor Program is demystifying the college process for high-school juniors through a 5-step program that helps students establish a personalized college admission blueprint. Want to learn more? Email or call Academic Director Vicki Jones at (617) 487-4401.